Commentary

Purina App Super-Serves Dog Owners With Training Utility

Melissa-Heeter-and-Glory-DiscThis week at SXSW, marketers are falling all over themselves to echo the prevailing sentiment that brands need to get beyond advertising and begin adding value to people’s lives. At OMMA Mobile at SXSW, the panel on emerging mobile trends highlighted brands like Nike that didn't sell a product with their mobile apps so much as an experience and fitness itself.

Granted, some brands struggle to connect with consumers with genuinely useful exchanges of value and content. But others, like Purina, seem to have it in the DNA. The company has been super-serving pet owners in the same way they have traditionally on the trade side with farmers. The most basic way a brand can gain favor with an audience is by educating them about their shared passion. Online and offline, in print, on the Web, in snail mail and in video series, the company seems to have always understood that good content is good business.

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That principle is very clear in the superb P5 app released this week in tandem with a live event at SXSW. The dog trainer app both tracks your dog’s physical activity to monitor and set health goals. But it also has a training component that pours on the videos and images to walk pet owners through the painful process of getting a pet to behave, let alone dive into a lake.

The app was developed internally at Nestle Purina and has at its core a sophisticated algorithm that determines the ideal activity and nutrition levels for a pet based on weight, size and breed.

Purina Pro Plan is sponsoring the app and held a Puppy Bowl of its own this weekend at SXSW dubbed Bark By Barkwest. Take note marketers. While Purina branding is visible throughout the app, the specific content related to their food products sits waiting in a drop-down menu for the user to access on her own.

When I hear every agency executive and his brother reiterate the importance of "authenticity" in communicating with consumers, the need to publish content, not advertise, and the call to align the brand with a user’s passions, it seems to me that the object lessons are closer than we might think. 

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